Donald Trump is deplorable. There is no use going over all the ways he has proven this—the constant and despicable attacks against women, Mexicans, Muslims, prisoners of war, those with disabilities, and “the Blacks” in inner cities who are apparently running around shooting each other willy-nilly and just need stop-and-frisk to end their mindless self-destruction, to name a few—because many articles have already been written outlining each increasingly heinous thing that escapes his lipless mouth.
And, to most young adults, there’s no use going over whether or not this fact makes his supporters deplorable as well. According to a new poll by GenForward, sixty-two percent of 18-30 year olds, including 82 percent of African-Americans, three-quarters of Latinx and Asian-Americans and 51 percent of white adults said they agree with Hillary Clinton when she called half of his supporters deplorable. Writer Damon Young argued that Clinton’s only problem was that she didn’t go far enough—all of his supporters qualify for that assessment.
GenForward is a survey of the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The first-of-its-kind poll pays special attention to young adults of color in order to highlight the intersectional issues affecting millennials.
And though the support of these young people is coveted by the Clinton campaign, the candidate quickly walked back her popular comment and apologized for making it. She didn’t really mean people who support a racist misogynist are not much better than whom and what they support. “Many of Trump’s supporters are hard-working Americans,” she said in a statement following the backlash, “[they] just don’t feel like the economy or our political system are working for them.”
The Right (and many white people on The Left, as well) have an intensifying fear of what they have deemed “political correctness”. The concern is that marginalized groups, in claiming to combat systematic abuses both large and small, prevent any type of productive dialogue by over-policing offensive language and being too sensitive. “Political correctness is a style of politics in which the more radical members of the left attempt to regulate political discourse by defining opposing views as bigoted and illegitimate,” explains Jonathan Chait.
Of course, many of these same people who loath “political correctness” had no problem accepting and/or capitulating to the show of offense with which Trump supporters responded to Clinton’s comments. The very same people who can back or ignore the generalizing statement: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” demanded a full-fledged apology for generalizing people who support a deplorable man as “deplorables”—and received it. Regardless of whether or not either charge is true or over-generalized, what is evident is that political correctness goes only one way, and it is not the way many present it to be.
The political system in this country was not constructed for nonwhite people. It follows that what is “correct” in the eyes of such a political system are the things that keep those who have power firmly in their place. Thus, the charge of “political correctness” is a complete reversal of fact. It is politically correct to campaign with a history of violence against people of color and women across the globe, as evidenced by both presidential candidates of each major party and their success thus far. It is not politically correct to combat anti-immigrant stances like Trump’s, or the political system would be doing something about it.
Political correctness is how a teacher who takes racist pictures with grade school children and posts them over the internet gets to keep her job, while Steven Salaita was fired from the University of Illinois and blacklisted for criticizing the oppressive regime running Israel on Twitter.
It is politically correct not to offend a large, white voting bloc, which is why Clinton was forced to apologize for her comments, whereas Trump could lean into his and stay competitive in the race (before derailing with attacks against white women, who do maintain some level of political protection by virtue of their whiteness).
Rather than tell things like they are, political correctness demands we gloss over them for the sake of white people. Clinton, who needs the support of Trump detractors more than she needs to tell the truth about racial and gender violence, made the politically correct choice with beneficial political consequences. That her truth-telling might have inspired someone like myself jaded by two candidates with oppressive histories was less of a concern than how it would might turn Trump’s deplorable supporters away. Indeed, studies show that when Black people increase involvement in the political system, the legislation they support is actually less likely to pass because turning off others by embracing them is often a more pressing concern under anti-Blackness than having Black support.
We are often fooled into thinking that this country is on the side of righteousness—that it is fundamentally good and therefore what is correct by its standards is also good (even if sometimes too good, Jonathan Chait might say). Occasionally, it seems to meet our expectations, and people who do offensive things to marginalized communities face some consequences. But these consequences generally do not prove that the system is set up to correct itself against oppression. Rather, it is often the case that it must be forced into correction, with most consequences following rigorous and unrelenting pushes by activists and organizers who uncover the deeds and do work to make those deeds challenge the mirage of goodness the country relies upon to continue to exist. Once that mirage is firmly back in place, abuses can go on unabated.
However, the goal should be to remove the façade entirely. Step one in doing so is recognizing that what is always politically correct—what this country’s political system always supports—is oppression. The GenForward survey also shows that young adults are more enthusiastic for Hillary Clinton than previously, now matching Obama’s 2012 support. Perhaps the change is due to a clearer image of the deplorability of Trump with which to contrast her against, and that image is being used to present Clinton as the correct political decision. The question to ask now is whether this image of contrast, like how we have been taught to imagine political correctness itself, is a façade as well.
Image via Gage Skidmore/Flickr